Couchsurfin’ the World

photos: Malte Jäger

Berlin-based photographer Malte Jäger, who was also one of the artists from our GIF.ME.BERLIN. exhibition, took six months off to travel the world in order to portray couch surfers on five different continents. Earlier this year he published the book Couchsurfin’ the World about the project. We interviewed Malte to ask him about his experiences. More after the jump.

1. How did you get the idea for this project?
My girlfriend’s flat mate had a friend visiting from Finland that she met on Hospitality Club, which is a predecessor of I was fascinated by the idea to meet people this way. You contact somebody online, and just a few days later you can sleep over basically everywhere in the world, and in a way you even have somebody like a friend.

Some years later I got the chance to try couch surfing myself. I was in Hannover, and I met this really nice guy who was buying and selling dung for farmers. I probably would have never met this guy without couch surfing. We got along really well, and we talked until three o’clock in the morning.

So then I had the idea to do a story about these new kinds of networks, and I developed the plan to show couch surfers travelling in several continents. For me it was important that my „guides“ were part of another culture than the ones they travelled to. In the end I found my protagonists on the website

2. What did you like best?
I was on the road for six months in such diverse parts of the world such as Europe, Africa, Central Asia, Brazil, US and India – so it is really hard to answer that question. So much happened while I was away. What I definitely liked best was the hospitality of the couch surfers that I met. They were all really lovely!

3. What did you not like?
There was one strange experience I had. I was about to meet my main protagonists in Mumbai at the place of 50-something Navy captain. When I finally got to the place after an exhausting journey, the captain had invited two other couch surfers. So his place was pretty crowded. Unfortunately, he did not enjoy that, so he threw us out. As he wasn’t explaining his decision to us, it was quite a strange situation. But that was really the only negative experience – and I stayed at more than 50 places altogether.

In Africa, we had to buy off corrupt policemen and sleep in a minefield. But those are the usual kind of things that you experience when you are on the road. And in the end, they turn out to be really exiting!

4. Which places did you like best?
Brooklyn, NYC – I would love to live there for a while. Unfortunately they did not let us in.

Also, we found an unbelievable beautiful fisher village in Brazil near Jericoacoara – (Sorry, but I am not going to reveal the name here). There, we were invited to visit the village teacher at this home. We ended up staying a couple of days. Funnily, we found out after a while that the grumpy bar women who was living with us was the village’s prostitute. Hopefully I will be able to visit them some time soon. In the summer I am flying to Brazil to work, so maybe I do not have to wait long…

5. Do you have any insider tips for our readers?
With couch surfing, you can basically experience any place in the world in a whole new way. As I said, when I tried it for the first time, even Hannover seemed exiting to me. You just can experience how other people live, and that is always exiting.

Talking of locations, one of the most interesting places I saw during my trip were the Pamir mountains. There are almost no couch surfers, they do not even have telephone over there, and naturally, there is not internet. So when you are travelling in this area, you have to do couch surfing – which is called „home stay“ in this case. You stay with a family, and you pay about 5 Dollar, including meals.

6. What are your plans for the future?
I will definitely continue photographing – that’s my job. Currently I am doing research for various prospective projects. But I have not yet made up my mind. However, one thing is for sure: My next non-commercial project is going to deal with the culture of everyday life.

Diesen Artikel auf deutsch lesen.

<a href="" target="_self">Jens</a>